There is a place on campus that grosses me out every time I enter—the PCL computer lab. I wouldn’t characterize myself as a full-blown germaphobe. I happily use restaurant utensils just like everyone else. There are three circumstances, however, that send me squirting for antibacterial soap: handling currency, the coughing and sneezing of others, and sharing computers.
We’ve been bombarded with images of grossness all of our lives. Who can forget that horrible slo-mo clip of a person sneezing from middle school health class? Therefore I don’t seek out exposé reports that analyze samples from public objects (telephones; bus seats; doors). I know what’s out there and with my handy bottle of soap and lots of elbow-only contact (opening doors, etc.) I’m okay. Until I need to go to the PCL computer lab.
This is the nexus of germs. It’s an open room with a million computers arranged in rows. During the semester it’s packed with undergrads. I avoid this space as much as possible since the idea of hundreds of people in a single room with closed windows is appalling. But every now and then I need to make a scan and unfortunately this is the best place to do so.
In the hour it takes me on average to make a scan, I see awful things. People not scanning at computers with scans, therefore incorrectly using that station. People chatting on their cell phones for eons. People sneezing and/or coughing. And worst of all, people eating. I once saw someone eat an entire Red Delicious apple while seated at a computer. I can barely take a sip of water when I’m scanning, lest I expose myself to germs. So I don’t comprehend what motivates someone to eat something so complicated and laborious as an apple.
Imagine my surprise, shock, and repulsion yesterday when I walked into the lab and saw a patron sitting at a scanner, not scanning, and having lunch. This man was eating, I swear, a pulled pork sandwich bathed in BBQ sauce that was resting on a bed of fries. He would hold the sandwich in his left hand as he typed with his right, stinking up the whole room with the sauce in the process. Gross. What’s the point? There are so many better places to eat on campus within 100 feet of this computer. I just don’t get it.
I don’t want to live in a world of germaphobes, that would be a complete nightmare. But at the same time, I’d like to be able to sit at a computer on campus and work in peace, with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be infected or grossed out in the interim.